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Τ ΙΗ Ε
As we approached Bethlehem, the hills were well terraced, and vines and figs abounded. The towers in the vineyards appeared to us more numerous then usual. Bethlehem stands on the top of a hill, on the south side steep and rocky. The white limestone rocks were like marble, and reflected the sun's rays, so as to be very painful to the eyes. They were also so slippery, that we found it safer to go up on foot. When near the top we came upon
" the well that is by the gate of Bethlehem.” It is protected by a piazza of four small arches, under which the water is drawn up through two apertures. Several people were under this one had descended the well to clean it out, so that we longed in vain for a draught of the water which David desired so earnestly. The situation of this well would suit exactly the description given in 1 Chronicles xi. 17, and the direction of the supposed geographical position of the cave of Adullam, to the south-east of Bethlehem, over the hill of Tekoah. The hosts of the Philistines were encamped in the valley of Rephaim; their garrison was at Bethlehem, and David was in the cave of Adullam. In the burning
heat of noon-day, he looked toward the hill that lay between him and his native town, and casually exclaimed,“ Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, that is at the gate!” His three mightiest captains instantly resolve to express their love to their chief, and their devotion to the cause of God, by putting their lives in jeopardy, in drawing some of the water of this deep well,
under the darts of their enemies. “ And the three brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David."
The white stone of which the hill is composed, and of which the town is built, makes it very hot, and gives it a dusty appearance. The fig-trees, olives, and pomegranates, and the ripe barley fields which cover the north side, shew that it is still capable of being made what its name signifies, “The House of bread.” At present, however, the plague was raging in Bethlehem, and we could not find even bread in the bazaar, so that we had to seek for food at the Latin Convent. This convent is a very substantial building, like a castle. The church, generally supposed to have been built by Helena, A. D. 326, is a fine spacious building, and the rows of Corinthian columns are substantial masses of granite. It was delightful to repose awhile in the cool atmosphere of this venerable pile; but the monks, who seemed to be ignorant and unpolished men, would have us away to see the sacred places of the Nativity We descended to the grotto, which they call the stable where our Lord was born. Here they shewed a marble manger as the place where the heavenly babe was laid ; but the monks had the honesty to allow that this was not the original manger, though the spot was the same. They shewed the stone where Mary sat, and pointed to a silver star as marking the spot where the Saviour was born, The star is intended to represent that which“ stood over where the young child was.” The
grotto is illumined by many handsome lamps, and there are several paintings by the first artists. Yet all is only a miserable profanation, like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; it called up in our bosoms no other feelings than disgust and indignation.
We were conducted to another cavern in the rock, farther to the east, where the monks said that the Virgin Mary lived. But we enjoyed far more a visit to the roof of the convent, where we could breathe the pure air, and look up to the deep blue sky, and down upon the fields and valleys around Bethlehem. These are still the same as in the night when the angel of the Lord proclaimed, “ Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."-(Luke 11.10.) It filled us with unmingled pleasure to gaze upon the undulating hills and valleys stretched out at our feet, for we were assured that among these David had often wandered with his flock, and in some of these the shepherds had heard the voice that brought the tidings of a Saviour born. Nearly due south lay a prominent hill about six miles distant, which we were told was the hill of Tekoah, giving name also to the wilderness around. The withered sides of this hill were once traversed by the prophet Amos, along with the herdsmen that fed their cattle there.-(chapi. 1.) But we saw neither flock nor herd. One interesting association connected with this convent is, that Jerome lived and died here. His eyes daily looked upon this scene, and here he translated the Word of God into Latin. We did not, however, find in the convent any one who seemed to have inherited the industry or learning of Father Jerome.- Mission to the Jews.
OUR LIVING LETTERS.
CHAP. XI. -THE UNDISCIPLINED DISCIPLINARIAN.
Our November meeting was in the house of Paternus : we had arranged it so, in order that our venerable chairman should not be exposed to the inclemency of the season, which proved to be such as caused the youngest and most hardy amongst us to rejoice in the shelter and warmth of the old parsonage library. Next best to the genial glow of the face of a kind friend, as reflected by the blaze of a good fire on a winter's evening, is, as every lover of reading must have felt, the reflection of the same light from well-replenished book-cases ; but there,-in the study of our chairman-we rejoiced in the presence of both descriptions of consolations, added to which, a well replenished tea-table made up the measure of our contentment.
As we came shivering in, one after another, we were introduced by the father of our society, to a stranger-one looking as old as himself-whom he announced as the earliest of his surviving friends—the almost last-remaining companion of his boyhood, his school, and college days, and of the first years of his ministry; for, as he added, “ My best old friend served a chapel of ease, during the period of his deaconry, within the same parish to which I was attached ; hence, may we truly say," he added, addressing his aged brother, “ as the poet said of his lamented Lycidus,
'That we were nursed upon the self-same hill,
Fed the same flock by fountain, shade, and rill.'” The second old gentleman smiled; and his smile, though beaming with deep affection for the first, was not free from a certain archness; which did not ill become the general bearing of his countenance. “I acknowledge the nursing, upon the selfsame hill, my old friend,” he replied, “ but I deny the fountain and the rill; no effort of my imagination, whatever your's may do, can convert our sooty colleries and streams of gas, to Arcadian fountains, and rills of pellucid water. I confess the shades, however : we wanted not these ; but how am I to accommodate my ideas of the snow-white flocks, of which poets sing, with the black population which we were called upon to guide with our innocent crooks?